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Marine Lab upgrades water quality stations at refuge

By Staff | May 27, 2020


Thanks to a collaborative project between the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation Marine Lab and the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, researchers from both organizations will soon have easier access to water quality data from the waters of the refuge.

“Even during the current pandemic, our two organizations have been able to work together to continue vital monitoring activities within the refuge,” Marine Lab Research Assistant Kevin Jones said.

The refuge maintains two remote water quality monitoring stations near Wildlife Drive, the popular scenic drive that traverses four miles of Sanibel’s backwaters and mangrove swamps and gives visitors a chance to see the area’s unique wildlife.

When it was built in the 1970s, the drive cut across parts of the refuge’s backwater habitats, turning them into impoundments with the water level determined by adjustable water control structures underneath the road rather than natural tidal flushing.

“The goal of the water quality stations is to study the effects that this artificial control of the impoundment water levels might be having on water quality in the refuge,” Jones said.

While the refuge owns the two stations, it relies on the expertise of the SCCF Marine Lab staff to keep them up and running. Both stations use a YSI sonde, a compact device that measures multiple water quality parameters simultaneously. The lab uses the same type of instruments for its field sampling projects.

Data from the stations is transmitted by a cellular modem, and over the last few weeks Jones and Marine Lab Manager A.J. Martignette have been working on installing new and improved data loggers at both sites. Using the old system, data was transmitted to a single computer in the refuge offices, making it difficult to access.

The new data loggers will broadcast data to a Website, where refuge and lab staff can view it at any time, even while working from home. One station is currently up and running on the new system, and the other station will be upgraded soon.

“While all of us at SCCF and the refuge are eager for the day when we can return to business as usual, we are grateful that technology like these water quality stations allows us to continue our research from home,” Martignette said.